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Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 2: Participative workshops)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my introductory statement to this series of blog postings I indicated that we – the ITB team together with our colleagues in Pontydysgu and our are application partner Bau ABC) are  going through a transition phase in our fieldwork. Roughly, this transition can be characterised as a  shift from preparatory measures to active collaboration in participative co-design work. This might seem a bit bold statement but I think this is exactly what we are experiencing at the moment.

Looking back at our workshop reports and my early blog postings on the Learning Layers (LL) project, I see that we were  mapping the grounds for forthcoming pilot activities. During the winter months (before the Design Conference) and the Easter break we had collected quite a lot of interview materials and made several field visits. In this phase we were getting insights into the work of individual company representatives and full-time trainers of Bau ABC. This material was used for the initial User Stories for the Application Partner Days and for the Design Conference of the . In Bremen we tried to group this material into contextual maps – to identify emerging  design ideas. (Later on some of the ITB colleagues have produced summaries of the interviews and coded it with MAXQDA.)

After the Design Conference in March our key question was, how to get the initial design ideas well grounded in the working and learning contexts of our application partners. We felt the need to get a better and wider understanding on the working and learning contexts of apprentices (both at their companies and at the training centre Bau ABC). We also wanted to get a better picture how they were using mobile devices and web technologies – in particular as support for working and learning. For this purpose we firstly organised a conversational workshop and then some storyboard workshops. With the help of these workshops we got more holistic pictures of the working days of apprentices in companies and in Bau ABC. Furthermore, we got a glimpse of some trade-specific problem situations or challenges and ideas, what role mobile technologies, web tools and software solutions may play. Also, some ideas were raised for context-specific apps.

With the trainers of Bau ABC we also had a storyboard exercise to illustrate their working day alongside apprentices’ projects. Then, during later working visits  we have continued to review the results of apprentices’ workshops but on top of that we have had further discussion on the points of intervention for the first year pilot activities. With these discussions we have got more comprehensive picture of needs to facilitate training and learning processes (with the help of digital media and web) and of the limits of current software solutions and web applications. Moreover, in these sessions the colleagues from Bau ABC have increasingly worked as a local LL team with regular cooperation with researchers from ITB and developers from Pontydysgu. (In this context we have also identified some spin-off initiatives for which we need to find additional resources.)

In this way we are reaching thew phase in which the workshops need to include demonstrations of emerging tools, applications and web designs. Then, the workshops could give focused feedback of the usability or shortcomings of the tentative solutions and/or the possibilities to use complementary apps and solutions. This has further implications for the development process, for supporting training activities and for our research agenda.

To be continued …

PS. With this series of blog postings I am focusing more closely on our cooperation with Bau ABC in the context of the Rapid Turbine initiative. This doesn’t imply that our work with our other application partners would have gone quiet. On the contrary – quite a lot of steps forward have been taken by in the fieldwork and design processes of the Captus team that focuses on the ecological construction work (represented by NNB/Agentur in Verden). However, since I have not been present in these events, I am not in the position to give detailed reports. PK

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209),


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